Spirituality means different things to different people. For some, it’s religious significance, such as completing the Hajj to Mecca or setting foot on the summit of Mount Sinai, where Moses received the ten commandments. For others, it’s remote introspection, surrounded by natural beauty; a reminder of the power of mother nature, and the opportunity to find a quiet place to meditate. For others still, it’s a feeling beyond explanation; a place with an ancient mystery that remains unsolved, or a location with an energy that simply can’t be put into words.
In this list, we’ve included 20 spiritual places that represent all these varied definitions of the word, for travelers who are looking for a journey rather than a destination and to travel deeper and further than ever before.
Perched on the banks of the Ganges, Varanasi is India’s oldest city. Its religious significance spans many different beliefs, including Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Buddhism, and Ravidassia. It’s believed that Buddhism was founded here in 528 B. C. when the Buddha gave his first sermon: “The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma.”
In 1858, the story goes that the Virgin Mary appeared to a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous. The apparitions, which to place 18 times between February and July, saw the Virgin Mary appear to Bernadette as a beautiful woman in white robes.
Cape Reinga – or as it’s known traditionally, Te Rerenga Wairua – is a sacred spiritual place for New Zealand’s Maori. If you’re visiting, remember to be respectful; although the location is idyllic and perfect for a picnic, those who come here are asked not to eat and to leave the land undisturbed.
Around 100 miles from the Grand Canyon is Sedona, Arizona, nicknamed “a cathedral without walls.” This unique location was once a sacred spot for Native American groups, with human habitation here dating back to between 11,500 and 9000 B.C.
Located on the Indonesian island of Java, Borobudur is a masterpiece built to represent the journey to Nirvana. The structure was built in the ninth century and is made up of an incredible two million stone blocks, which form the shape of a mandala.
Mount Sinai is often known by its nickname, Mount Moses, as it was here that Moses is said to have received the 10 Commandments from God. Therefore, this spiritual place is particularly significant in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – Mount Sinai is mentioned in the Bo of Exodus in the Bible, as well as in the Quran.
Tucked away on a small isle in British Columbia’s Haida Gwaii archipelago (or the Queen Charlotte Islands), lies the village of S’Gang Gwaay. The village was once home to the First Nations Haida people, who lived on the islands for over 8,000 years. However, the island was abandoned in 1880s.
Ancient Greeks once believed that the Sanctuary of Apollo at phi was the center of the world. The temple which still stands today dates back to the fourth century B. C. and was erected to honor the god of the sun, Apollo.
Inside the temple was once a statue of the god, guarded by an eternal flame. People would visit to listen to Pythia, who acted as a mouthpiece for Apollo, and whose prophecies were interpreted by priests.
Mecca, a city in the Hejazi region of Saudi Arabia, near Jeddah, is the center of the Islamic world. It was here that the prophet Muhammed was born and also where he received the Words of God. No matter where Muslims are when they pray, they always turn to face Mecca.
The 88 Temple Pilgrimage, also known as the Temple Circuit, is a 1,200-kilometer route around Shiku island. It’s believed that visiting the island’s four provinces, and all 88 official temples en route, is the path to enlightenment.
The circuit’s four stages also have special meanings: temples one to 23 represent awakening, then 24 to 39 is discipline and austerity, 40 to 65 are attaining enlightenment, and finally, 66 to 88 are an entry to heaven. Many of the temples were founded by Kukai, a revered scholar and monk.
Perched high in the Andes Mountains, Peru’s Machu Picchu is an incredible Inca masterpiece that dates back to the 15th century. The site is comprised of temples, shrines, and caves.
Yet, the UNESCO World Heritage also shows the Inca’s advancements in engineering, as well as knowledge of astronomy, as the buildings are built in with celestial formations. The three main structures are the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows.
Crater Lake, in the state of Oregon, was formed when the upper areas of Mount Mazama collapsed, leaving behind a large hole, around 8,000 years ago.
However, the site is also featured in a Native American Klamath legend, which says that Llao (the Chief of the World Below) and Skell (the Chief of the World Above) created the indent in the land’s surface during a battle.
Impressive Mount Kailash is a dominating mountain, with a summit up 6,714 meters, in western Tibet. It’s also the source of four of Asia’s great rivers: the Indus, the Sutlej, the Brahmaputra, and the Karnali (or Ghaghara), which feeds the Ganges. Buddhism, Jainism, Bon (a native Tibetan folk religion), and Hinduism all consider the mountain to be sacred.
Rila, the highest mountain range in Bulgaria, spans 2,629 square kilometers and has an average altitude of 1,487 meters. Some of the longest rivers in the Balkans originate from this place, such as the Mesta, Iskar, and Maritsa rivers. Rila is also home to hot spring and glacial lakes.
The gorgeous medieval town of Assisi, located in Italy’s Umbria region, has a rich cultural and spiritual history. The Latin poet Propertius was born here around 50 B. C., Saint Francis in 1208 (one of the most popular saints in history), Saint Clare in 1194, and Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows in 1838.
Adam’s Peak is a 2,243-meter mountain in tea country, Sir Lanka, home to a significant relic known as Sri Pada. Better known as “the sacred foot,” the Sri Pada is a 1.8-meter rock formation found at the mountain’s summit.
Buddhists believe the foot to be Buddha’s, Hindus concur it is an im from Hanuman or Shiva, whilst Christians and Muslims identify the foot as belonging to Adam, or Saint Thomas.
Ayers Rock, also known as Uluru, is an instantly recognizable sandstone formation associated with Australia. Located in the north of the country, giant Uluru is thought to be 550 million years old and is a sacred place for indigenous Australians.
Climbing this sacred spot is not allowed, but the formation is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, partly due to the creation mythology surrounding Ayers Rock, but also the ancient artwork and caves at the site too.
The mysteries of Angkor Wat have enticed visitors to Cambodia, whether their motivation is to learn about history, architecture, art, and culture, or spirituality. Thousands attend sunrise at Angkor Wat every day.
The vast temple city of Angkor dates back to the 12th century and at one point, was the largest and most populous city in the world.
The prehistoric wonder of Stonehenge can be found in Wiltshire, in the United Kingdom. The site is comprised of a ring of standing stones, which are between four and two meters in height, and weigh around 25 tons.
One of the most famous landmarks in England, the stones date back to between 2000 and 3000 B. C., though the purpose of the formation still remains a mystery.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth at 393 meters below sea level, its water is 10 times saltier than seawater, plus the air surrounding the lake has a higher concentration of oxygen than normal.
With all of these features combined, it’s no wonder than this natural phenomenon is reported to have powerful healing properties and feels very spiritual to those who visit.
Do you prefer to find yourself with ocean views, immerse yourself in an ancient city of temples, or retrace the footsteps of a famous religious figure? Whatever your beliefs or curiosities, we hope this list of spiritual places has started you off on your own pilgrimage to discover something on a higher level in this world.